The change in cultural patterns and increase in outsourcing to different less developed countries has led to a drastic reformation in the industry of dies and molds. Let us see what all is required to excel in this new milieu.
The globalization is having an adverse effect on the local die and mold industry, which already is a tough and competitive business. The mold and die makers need to reorient their plans in order to meet the new standards. The process is already begun with various companies, which are either small or medium in size, entering into new supportive and collaborative efforts. Various syndications and acquisitions taking place substantiate this change.
Earlier tool making was considered as a highly skillful art. But not anymore today. With the advent of new technological tools like parametric modeling in 3D, tooling at rapid pace and machining at high speed etc, anybody can enter into tool making using right blend of these technological tools. The business structures of yore are fast becoming redundant and the need of the hour is to focus on value instead of cost, to make progress. The tool and die makers should target suitable markets. They should also invest in developing products, which are specialized materials, in proper course of action and of course on the cognizance of the customers' needs. Summarily, the whole competition should be on value rather than cost.
Consultant Glenn Beall advised Modern Plastics that although quite a few processors have tried to aggrandize their businesses by taking care of various additional services like inventory facility, doing finishing making of packages, assembling and even decorating for their original equipment manufacturers (OEM), it is not good enough. Providing additional services would only be useful and beneficial if they are coupled with some specialty like provision of an in-house or internal painting line or perhaps the capability of electroplating. Mere offering of more services is not tantamount to adding value.
To obtain the end products in mold and die making a flow process, which is uninterrupted, is applied on a mixture, which can bind and also be used again. Such a mixture mainly consists of ventonite clay, a lubricant like oil, and sand. All of these are mixed together in such a way that on the mixture the desired impressions can be made to form back to back molds and dies. The mixture is then made to move through many zones wherein some work is performed on them. This is accomplished by using a conveyor belt, which takes the mixture through these zones. The conveyor belt is again required for spreading of mixture on it.
The process of smoothening and rolling is carried out to make the mixture uniform and consistent according to the specifications. After that a mold maker is used to impress upon the mixture in order to get mold or dies. Further, a material, which can harden the mold or die, is injected into it.
Whole of the product is then heated so that finished and cured product can be obtained from the hardenable material. The mixture is then finally separated from the final product that is cured and finished, and is transferred back to the stage from where the entire process started. Again another conveyor belt is used for transferring the mixture. The mixture again goes through the same steps to form finished products like structural material.
Offshore outsourcing of manufacturing by the automobile sector has also contributed greatly to the decline of the traditional strategies. The ones who have suffered the most because of this transportation to other economical locations are small shops, which are owned by families and employ about 5 to 100 workers. The reason being a large dependence of mold and die makers on the transportation industry, particularly automotive.
The subcontracting to other economical locations has come as a bane for the tool shops that are small. Statistics reveal that North America has lost somewhere around 150,000 jobs of tooling since 2000 just because of this outsourcing. The reason is obvious from the fact that around 60% of stamping dies and about 40% of plastic molds are engaged directly or indirectly by the automotive industry worldwide. Apart from this, over a period of five years, the market of machinery used for molding injections has gone down by about 50% in United States.
It can thus be inferred from all this data that the industry of molds and dies has ceased to be merely a skillful occupation. In fact, it has graduated into becoming a very competitive, multifaceted business. Survival and rise in this industry today would only be possible if the people involved pay attention to certain new parameters. These parameters include devoting their energies to a particular skill, strengthening their services, trying to make their products more valuable, and of course seeking markets, which could be their forte.